Heaven Is for Real
Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.
Grace Wang is a writer and producer. She is a contributing author to various publications including The Spectators Arts Blog, the books World Film Locations: New York and World Film Locations: BeiJing, and has worked as a Programming Associate and Social Media Coordinator for the Toronto International Film Festival and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.
Grace is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and muses at Etheriel Musings and @etherielmusings. In her spare time she practices as a lawyer, daydreams on public transport, and has a weakness for red shoes and good people. Grace has lived and worked in eight countries on three continents. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
Lust. Caution. Lust, Caution. Lust...Caution.
The English name of Ang Lee's 2007 film consists of two words. Taken separately, they stand alone as individual concepts: Lust, a primal, human urge; Caution, an evolved, societal tool. Put them side-by-side, and contrast emerges: primal versus evolved, individual versus society, incongruent. Poke a little hole in the membrane that separates the two, and dynamics shift. Lust surges in the face of Caution. Caution stares right back, coolly, unflinching.
"Take This Waltz" materialized out of a humid summer day in Toronto and made me tremble and fall in love... with who or what I'm not sure; the city yes, and maybe the idea of the in-between.
There is something incredibly delicate and beautiful about the thought of in-between: of that space of the possible, of movement, of choices being sought and yet to be made, of freedom and abandon and all the stuff that dreams are made of, but yet to solidify. It is a place of alchemy. Some call it a moment - a fleeting moment.
It may be surprising for you to learn that in a country with more than one billion people, the fastest growing film industry in the world, and a 10 billion rmb (1.5 billion usd) box office gross in 2010 alone, there is hardly any professional film criticism accessible to its public.When I say hardly any, I mean that there is an absence of professional film critics who work for major, national publications and media outlets, and thus a lack of regular film reviews of new Chinese movies, at least for the mass audiences. Sure, there are some academic and/or bureaucratic film publications that are read by few, and others that are commercially centered whose readership is small and reserved. The majority of active, up-to-date film criticism in China today comes from blogs and websites started by film lovers.
I'm sitting on a plane that is about to take off for Hong Kong. Looking out on the tarmac at Beijing, I can't quite believe my first two weeks here are already over, and Hong Kong International Film Festival is just around the corner.
The past week has been a whirlwind of food, work and discovery, not always in that particular order, but always an interesting combination of sorts.
Let's start with my favorite indulgence while traveling: Food. Fresh food, persevered food, homemade food, street vendors food, gourmet food... you name it, I love it. Gastronomic adventure is, in my opinion, one of the greatest pleasures in life, and I've never shied away from its waters. I don't just dip my toes, I jump in headfirst and splash around like a five year old.
First of a series as our Far-Flung Correspondent returns to her birthplace - RE• Grace Wang of Toronto
I've always thought about coming home.
As a person of Chinese descent, I was born and raised on this yellow earth until my early teens. It was my home, my roots, my place.
Then, one day, that place shifted... across the ocean to another continent, to a place called Canada, and along I went. In a strange country where everything was bewilderingly new, where even the light seemed different (less pollution, probably), I had to learn to be who I was all over again. I loved books, and suddenly I couldn't read. I loved writing, and suddenly I couldn't write. Well, not in a way that was understood to be the norm anyway. To a kid, there was no more important thing in the whole, wide world.
Mike Leigh's Another Year (2010) is like a tender, swollen, beating heart that you hold within your palms: the soft flesh expands and contracts with every breath, and through the tiny crevices in between your fingers, life juices flow.
"Life is not always kind, is it?"
Gerri looks at Mary and quietly let those words slip. Mary catches her gaze, briefly. The letters settle over them like a mild fog, unmistakably present and non-disruptive, and the day proceeds on as it does.
Another day. Another year.
Through uncanny realism and probing characters, Leigh's latest film speaks of the pervasive dilemma of our kind: how do we live in this world in the presence of those so different and similar to ourselves at once? How do we make sense of each of our own way of life?
Whenever I saw a plastic bag, a mixed feeling of benevolence and mild annoyance used to bubble up within me. When not neatly stacked by the cashier in a store or filled with stuff, they were usually flapping in the wind making unnecessary noises or worse, trailing in the gutter or sidewalk, being useless. Their life as intended was over, but they seemed oblivious.
These feeling changed after I first read the novel "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro, which in its almost-casual prose and easy pace, threaded me through the legendary grounds of Hailsham and the damp English countryside with Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy. Along the way I sat beside the girls while they bonded, and stood beside the boys while they yelled. Throughout their lives, I got to know these three people, and they became real to me. By the time the book completed, so had they, but I was not.
• Grace Wang in Toronto, whose four-part video interview with Chung is below her essay.
Lucky life isn't one long string of horrorsand there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows.
- Lucky Life by Gerald Stern
Ringing true to the poem the film is inspired by, Lee Isaac Chung's "Lucky Life" avoids the typical horrors of cookie-cutter narratives, and belies itself to moments of peace and pleasure that lull within its memory-shaped form.
"Film is the medium that gives room to our fantasies, most of the time harmless, since they are fantasies. The cinema is often more beautiful than life, if only because we write the screenplay." - Leconte
The Hairdresser's husband (1990) is a film so fantastical, so sensual, so romantic, that you can not help but sigh in ached longing...a longing that, deep down, you know is untouchable, but how good it is to be drenched so thoroughly in it in a French hairdressing salon, on sunny afternoons and stormy nights?
Dreamers. Lovers. However they came to be we do not know, and it does not matter. They are so content together, indeed so happy that they seem immune to the ravishing of life's toil. Passion consumes their lives. The day begins with it, and ends with it.
Why do we go to the movies? I expect the reasons vary. Some people may go to be wowed by an interesting plot, spectacular special effects, tight action sequences. Some may go for an escape, wanting to be absorbed in a world other than their own for a little while. Some may go for the company, for a date, for some bonding time with parents, siblings, friends. Some may go out of boredom, loneliness, or both. Some may go to simply see a good movie, a work of art. The cinema never judges.